Unleashing the Power of Culture
by Elise Mballa
I am married with three wonderful children. I am originally a geographer and teacher trainer. This career has enabled me to develop a particular skill, that of sharing and communicating with others my knowledge and experiences.
Art for Peace
I came to the arts at the age of 14, thanks to an uncle who was gifted in storytelling and dance. After specializing in dance, I now focus on the creation of shows, enabling young people to participate actively in life through the means of art. To this end I have bought some land where I plan to build a cultural space specially for youth in order to promote African culture. I also organize festivals and training for dancers. I have created an association called "Association Meka" dedicated to dance. All these activities have as their goal the promotion of peace and bringing hope to human beings by giving meaning to their lives, fighting on this basis against violence. I see that poverty, misery and famine generate violence and constitute obstacles to the realization of peace.
It was in an effort to put into practice the Buddhist teaching that there is no real happiness in living alone, that I decided to share with others what I have learned in the field of culture.
It is in this way that I began to work as a producer and choreographer, and this enabled me to create, together with Martino Ebale, who is now a member of SGI-Belgium, the group Nyanga Dance. The group became successful due to its strong unity, based on the regular Buddhist practice of most of its members. After Martino left for Belgium, I decided to organize cultural festivals in Cameroon, in the U.S.A. and around the world. The most successful has been the annual "Abok I Ngoma" festival of dance and percussion which brings together African and European groups.
I am fortunate to be blessed with good health, great vitality and plenty of energy, but I would have been incapable of bringing all this to fruition without my Buddhist practice.
My admiration for Buddhism dates back to the 1980s. At that time I had several friends who were SGI members, and I joined their activities on some occasions. However, it was only in 1997 that I decided to begin practicing Buddhism seriously, in order to overcome difficulties I was then facing. This philosophy has made me calmer, stronger, more sure about the future and my role in society. I became even more committed when I learned that SGI President Daisaku Ikeda has been praying that the 21st century will be the Century of Africa. I agree with this assertion. Africa has brought everything into the world, and it is our cultural diversity that will make us first in the world. If countries were classified not in terms of GNP but in terms of cultural richness, it is Africa which would occupy the first place.
In order that Africa may become the continent of the 21st century in the realm of culture, it is necessary for all Africans to start working toward this end. We must consider culture not only as a tool for bringing people together but as a tool for development. To arrive at that point, Africans must learn to develop and perfect their own culture. It is human beings, Africans, who will make Africa the continent of the 21st century. Mr. Ikeda's conviction in the African Century stems from his conviction that African people will bring our limitless potential to bloom. For my part, having been designated as an expert on the national commission for UNESCO in Cameroon, I will fight to translate these sentiments into concrete action.
Of course nothing is easy. Faith and precise and continuous prayers are what have given me success. They have enabled me to have clear goals and to be open to others. I am convinced that with strong determination it is possible to move mountains, and I feel I am now devoted to a truly just and noble cause.
[ Courtesy January 2005 SGI Quarterly ]